When High Impact Wrestling returns to Yorkton Monday, July 16, in its new venue, the Ukrainian Orthodox Auditorium, a wrestling legend will be headlining the show.
Tito Santana was once among the best in the wrestling business starring with World Wrestling Entertainment.
Santana told Yorkton This Week it was never his intention to become a pro wrestler.
“I was born in Mission, Texas. I was playing football at West Texas State University when I met Tully Blanchard, he was our quarterback, and he started talking to me about Pro wrestling,” he said. “I did not become interested until my second year in Pro football. My intentions were to play football and wrestle in the off season, but the rest is history, wrestling full time for 17-years.”
Santana said the initial decision was not made out of a deep interest in wrestling, but because it was something to pay the bills.
“It was strictly a business decision,” he said. “I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew nothing about wrestling other than Joe Blanchard had told me that I could be making a lot more money than playing football.”
Professional wrestlers often seem to create personas of near mythical proportions, Santana said it was not hard to create his ring mannerisms.
“Developing the ring persona was not hard at all. I believe that everyone was pretty much being themselves. I can only speak for myself, of course,” he said.
While the theatrics might have come easily, the day-to-day rigors of the ring were not.
“The most difficult thing for me was having to wrestle every night regardless of injury. We were like robots, wrestling 345 days a year,” he said.
But through it all Santana said he did have one match which still stands out in his mind -- the cage match in Baltimore versus Greg Valentine “when I won the Intercontinental title back.”
Santana also said he looks back and wishes one story line that did not take place could have.
“I wish I would have had a feud with Mr. Wonderful. We used to have great matches,” he said.
Having performed on the biggest stages of wrestling, a three-stop tour with HIW may not seen significant, but Santana said he approaches the small shows the same way he did the big one.
“My attitude is always the same,” he said. “I feel that every fan at the event bought a ticket, and they deserve a good show. It never gets old to hear the fan letting you know how much they care for you.”
Santana added in some ways small shows offer more connection to the fans than the full stadiums did.
“In the small venue you get close and personal with the fans. We have a period before the match where we sell pictures and the fans are usually sharing memories. I love that part,” he said.
Santana said it is the fan’s connection with wrestling which has kept it popular.
“I believe the fact that they feel as being part of the outcome,” he said. “If you stop and think, it is the fans who really control the emotion of the match. It is up to the wrestler to go where they want to take you. We listen to the crowd, and go from there.”
It’s the connection which keeps Santana in the game all these years, something he said surprises him.
“I never thought I would be doing it this long,” he said. “My great relationship with the fan never gets old. I am a school teacher during the year, so I do not go out on tour much. I have not being away this long since I retired from the WWE in ‘93. I am looking forward to coming back to Western Canada. Great fans always.”
Santana said he has no plans to stop wrestling either.
“I told my wife that I will continue to wrestle as long as I am appreciated,” he said. “Like I said earlier, when I meet the true fan on these small shows, the true fan feels like they have a personal relationship with you, and they do. They have no idea what it means to me to have continued support all over the world.
“As far as the bruises, that is getting harder to deal with. It takes me days to recover now. Back in the old days we were always in pain, so we did not know any better. We know better know, pain is pain, but it is all worth it.
“My feeling is that it is our time to give back to the fan after all these years. I am looking forward to my tour in Canada, especially in Yorkton.”